St Francis Rochestown 5-12 Tralee CBS 1-4: A bout of half-time spy-busting from Rochestown coach Liam Ó Murchú was as tense as things got in Carrigadrohid, as last season’s beaten Corn Uí Mhuirí finalists laid on a formidable show of power.
Ó Murchú put a stop - during the interval - to attempts by a rival school to film this Group A clash, and it was evident from early on why many eyes will focus on Roco this time round.
As early as the eighth minute, Tralee’s task looked daunting, with Cork dual minor Sean Powter rounding keeper Shane Foley to scramble home after Sam Collins’ direct dash had created the opening.
That supplemented two early scores from the lively James Holland and though the Douglas attacker soon limped off, his departure didn’t signal much let-up for beleaguered Tralee.
In truth, Tralee’s assignment had looked, literally, enormous, even as the teams left the dressing rooms. The slighter Kerry side were dwarfed by their imposing opponents, particularly the giant midfield pairing of Eoghan O’Brien and Evan Ryle.
O’Brien arrowed an early point, but everything revolved around Ryle, buoyed by a Cork Premier intermediate title with Carrigaline last Sunday. Bailing out defensive colleagues one minute, he strode forward imperiously the next.
Rochestown also had a lighthouse guiding them home at the edge of the square. Some wayward finishing hindered Ciaran Cormack, but his influence was constant. On 20 minutes, a lung-bursting sortie from centre-back David Stack found Powter, whose point attempt was half-blocked, but Cormack snaffled the bits and pieces, spun and rattled.
Tralee’s lively midfielder Michael Reidy had already departed on a black card for hauling down Powter. And referee Cathal Egan almost apologetically sent David Long on the same trek for a trip on O’Brien on 22 minutes.
“A complete disaster of a first half,” was how coach Marc Ó Sé described it afterwards.
And yet, they stayed with the task, for a time. Foley stood up defiantly to a Liam Grainger drive and midfielder Gary Nolan began to instigate some attacking investigations.
A goal and a point within a minute prolonged interest. First, Michael Kelliher added a point from play to his earlier free, before centre-forward Tomás O’Connor found a tidy finish to match a streaking run.
With Tralee set to resume into a stiffening wind, their prospects looked modest, but Kelliher briefly raised hopes further by arcing over gorgeously within a minute of the resumption. It was as good as things would get for them.
Ryle had his third point from a well-worked free, before Matthew McAuliffe, steadily getting on the ball more, played into Cormack, who laid off for Powter to apply the seal on things.
There was still 20 left to play. McAuliffe would go on to finish with 1-3 as the benches emptied, while the enterprising Grainger hit a fine point his performance deserved.
Eventually, the lightning Powter made way too, without lessening the family’s influence. Younger brother Brendan replaced him and sniped a goal of his own.
Afterwards Ó Murchú admitted some surprise at some of the slickness in his side’s play, given their disturbed preparation.
“We were slow to get much done this year, because Douglas have been in two county finals. And we had a Harty Cup game.
“But maybe it’s because we’ve been at this level last three years. This team won a Frewen Cup two years ago. So that gave them confidence.
“The two midfielders were immense. They worked massively hard. It was a tough one last year. so good to get on the road again.”
Scorers for Rochestown:
S Powter (2-1); M McAuliffe (1-3, 1 free); C Cormack, B Powter (1-0); Evan Ryle (0-3); Eoghan O’Brien, James Holland (1 free) (0-2 each); L Grainger (0-1).
Scorers for Tralee CBS:
M Kelliher (0-3, 2 frees), T O’Connor (1-0), G O’Connor 0-1.
C Denn (St Michael’s); E Riordan (Carrigaline), N Walsh (Douglas), D Murphy (Douglas); R O Colmain (St Michael’s), D Stack (Carrigaline), N Quirke (Carrigaline); E O’Brien (Douglas), E Ryle (Carrigaline); L Grainger (St Michael’s), S Powter (Douglas), S Collins (Douglas), J Holland (Douglas), C Cormack (St Michael’s), M McAuliffe (Douglas).
S Hilliard (Cobh) for Holland (12); J Golden (St Michaels) for Quirke (52); J Lyons (Nemo) for McAuliffe (53); B Powter (Douglas) for S Powter (55);
S Foley (Kerins O’Rahillys); B Patterson (Austin Stacks), S Mortimer (Churchill), D Long (Ballymac); T Lynch (St Pat’s), N O’Mahoney (Na Gaeil), B O’Neill (Kerins O’Rahillys); G Nolan (Kerins O’Rahillys), M Reidy (Ballymac); G O’Connor (Na Gaeil), T O’Connor (Ballymac), C Hurley (John Mitchels); J McCarthy (Ardfert), O O’Brien (Churchill), G Fitzgerald (Austin Stacks).
M Kelliher (John Mitchels) for Reidy (15, BC); S Donnellan (Churchill) for Long (BC, 23), J Dillane (John Mitchels) for G O’Connor (53); C Lowe for G Fitzgerald.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved